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Tracklist: 1. The Fire Shires 29:00 2. The Tower of Palanthax 7:47 3. Beyond the Gate 9:46 4. Bloodstone Lands 5:15 5. The Quest For Alifaar's Door 7:10 6. Killianor's Sight 6:15 7. The Rope 4:59 All music written by Elvaron; all lyrics by M. Morand. Line-up: Matthieu Morand - guitars, vocals Thomas Letscher - keyboards Julien Skorka - bass Fred Seiler - drums Produced by M. Morand & F. Seiler. Recorded & mixed by M. Morand at "Elvaron" studio.
Prologue. Elvaron's debut CD "The Five Shires" is one of the first releases by the brand new division of Musea Records - the Prog-Metal oriented 'Thundering' (which, in fact, is already the tenth division of the label).
The Album. First off, I'd like to say that the album's title track is one of the most grandiose Prog-Metal epics I've ever heard. What I didn't expect though, is that not only the epic The Five Shires, but all of the songs that are featured on this 70-minute masterpiece would be real gems of Progressive Metal. All of them were created within the framework of a unified stylistics. However, it would be hard for me to depict each of these songs, so I'd better direct your attention to the most characteristic features of the album as a whole. Although there are a few of the stylistic (only) similarities between Elvaron's "The Five Shires" and the best albums of such famous Prog-Metal bands as Fates Warning ("Awaken the Guardian", 1986, & "No Exit", 1988), Voivod ("Nothing Face", 1989, & "The Outer Limits", 1993), and Iced Earth ("Burnt Offerings", 1995); on the whole the music of these young Frenchmen is distinctly original. What is more, both of their compositional and performing skills are on par with all of the said giants. Matthieu Morand is a very impressive vocalist (kind of chameleon). He is able to sing in very different tonalities - from Death-ish to soft melodic, though most of the vocal parts on the album are rather dramatic. Changes of the musical dimensions, tempos, etc are not only frequent and, sometimes, kaleidoscopic. Most of them are very unexpected. Complex arrangements, contrasts, atonal rhythms, seemingly endless interchanges of 'metallic' and Art Rock-ish structures, high-speed virtuosi solos of electric and bass guitars, beautiful interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and keyboards (including the piano): all of this makes the overall musical palette of the album extremely intriguing.
Summary. It's clear to me that Elvaron is the best French Prog-Metal bands to have ever existed. Furthermore, the release of their album, "The Five Shires" is a remarkable event, at least within the framework of this genre. Up to now, too few of the really good Prog-Metal albums were released in the new millennium, among which, in my view, only Azazello's "Upstairs" (which was also released by Musea) surpasses the debut album by Elvaron. Although Elvaron is a new act to the scene, they certainly compose and perform with the experience of a much older band.
VM. January 22, 2002
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